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Special report: Screen time is affecting your sleep and overall health

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Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 19:32:34-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you lie in bed at night and stare at an electronic device, it could be affecting your health.

According to the American Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of people in the United States admit to using a electronic device during the hour before bed.

An artificial blue light is emitted from most screens. This bright light delays the circadian rhythm, which basically is like the body's internal clock. This suppresses the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.

Dr. Salim Surani, professor of Medicine at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, is board certified in sleep medicine and has been studying sleep for almost 25 years.

The biggest issue he sees with the use of devices in bed is sleep deprivation.

"Sleep deprivation is like, you can borrow money from a bank, if you don't return it, you're in trouble." Surani said.

Not only are people staying up late and not getting enough sleep, the noise and bright light of a phone going off through the night can fragment or interrupt our sleep patterns.

"The light it emits is so powerful we don't realize that in the dark when you turn the light on it, just, you know, blows all your sleep receptors and you become very awake, " said Surain, an adjunct professor Pulmonary, and the Critical Care & Sleep Medicine departments of TAMHSC. "Which is a major challenge. It's just like you take a car with a stick shift and (are) constantly changing the gears, and the car just keeps on making the noise. Similarly, our brain just keeps on making the noise."

This changing of gears that happens in our brains can cause serious health issues over time.

"Your brain has a hormone switch, surging up and down and that can cause increase risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, a lot of the other health-related challenges."

There is a "night shift" feature on most phones. This mode shifts the colors of the display to the warmer end of the color spectrum which theoretically emits less blue light. However, Dr. Surani told us this feature is not a solution because the bright light and noise can still fragment our sleep. The "do not disturb" feature is a great option, or do what Dr. Surani suggests.

"My advice to them is, when you go to the bed, turn your phone off. Everything can wait."